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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Perumal Murugan

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By Aminah Sheikh

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

We do a lot of things, not knowing why. The same is true of writing. I don’t have a clear answer to this question. It could be said that I write because writing is my second nature.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

My novel Poonachi Allathu Oru Vellatin Kathai (Poonachi or The Story of a Goat) was published in January 2017. It tells the story of a goat’s life in its entirety. In the novel, I experimented with writing both in the conventional mode of storytelling as well as deviating from it. Writing about a goat was more suited to my heart than writing about human beings. I share my experiences and perspectives through my writing. But for that, I don’t think of conveying anything or achieving anything with it.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

My style of writing is very simple. Many stories lie buried in my heart. Of these, I select the one which takes a complete form, and when time and state of mind are conducive, I sit down to write. Life is a multi-layered entity. It is writing with this understanding that perhaps defines the aesthetic of my work.

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Book Review: Perumal Murugan’s ‘Current Show’ is a novel about the uncertainties the young feel

By Anjana Balakrishnan

current showThere is a scene in the television series Breaking Bad where brother-in-law cop Schrader is brewing beer in his garage. I knew right away that he would hurt himself while capping the bottles. Because Perumal Murugan wrote about the dangers of bottling soda in his book Pyre. The spell Murugan casts gives me the ability to consider the realities of his characters as my own, though it is far removed from my reality.

Who knew that there was joy in the glint of a soda bottle well-washed or the artful perfection of bottling soda until Murugan told us so? In Current Show, he made bile rise to my mouth with similar ease as he describes the theatre grounds squishy with stale urine. When he talks about the crowds for an MGR movie, I could feel the stickiness of sweat against my clothes and the push and shove of being in that crowd.

Sathivel is a poor, young soda seller at an old theatre past its prime. He sells colour soda during the interval and spends his free time with the other theatre boys, doing odd jobs or smoking ganja. Including their next meal, there are few certainties in life for the boys to rely on. Sathi’s friendship with Natesan is one of his certainties. They look out for each other, sharing food and cigarette butts. These boys are willing to get into fights, steal slippers off cine-goers, sell tickets in black and to do the bidding of anyone who will give them money, food or drugs. This is where we begin to see how poverty changes their worldview. Read more

Source: The News Minute


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Book Review: Perumal Murugan’s ‘Pyre’, may its heat singe some sense into you!

By Anjana Balakrishnan

Perumal Murugan’s fiction has the enchanting ability to fill you with dread. To all appearances, his stories are straightforward and simple. But a couple of pages in, you start feeling the robust muscle of society coiling around your neck in a chokehold. Over the next hundred or so pages you find yourself sitting upright in your chair, bed or floor, willing yourself to read as fast you can while simultaneously hoping never to get to the end of the story.

What makes his writing even more chilling is the knowledge that this story could be true in thousands of villages in India, however removed you are from them. Why villages alone? These stories of caste brutalities could be true in a majority of families in India.

Originally written in Tamil as Pookkuzhi (2013), and translated into English in 2016 by Aniruddhan Vasudevan, Pyre is Kumaresan and Saroja’s love story laced with the poison of caste. Read more

Source: The News Minute


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Perumal Murugan: The Before and the After

By K. Srilata

On an evening uneasily sandwiched between the demise of the former chief minister Jayalalithaa and the arrival of cyclone Vardah, a small group of people had assembled at Chennai’s iconic Spaces. The occasion was Prakriti Foundation’s launch of Perumal Murugan’s book of poems, Mayanathil Nitkum Maram (A Tree that Stands in the Crematorium) – a book that contains four previous collections of poetry: Nigazh Uravu, Gomuki Nadhikarai Koozhaangal, Neer Midakkum Kanngal and Velli Shani Bhudhan Nyayaru Vzhyayan Chevvai. I was in conversation with Murugan, a role that I, with Murugan’s consent, have recast slightly. I made some introductory remarks following which there was a bi-lingual reading. Murugan read his Tamil poems and I read Peter and Thirugyanam’s English renderings of the same. There was a solemnity to the occasion, for it marked the resurrection of Murugan, the writer. The event itself lasted for less than an hour and there were a few questions and then it is all over before we know it. As we wrap up, I notice a big pile of unsold copies – the story of most poetry book launches.

In January 2015, Murugan had famously announced on Facebook that his writing self was dead. He was being hounded by Hindu right-wing forces and threatened with death. Murugan had made the fatal mistake of portraying certain sexual customs of the people of Tamil Nadu’s Kongu Nadu region in his novel Madhorubhagan. It was a grim, grim story – the sort of thing no writer anywhere in the world would wish for, the sort of thing no writer anywhere in the world should have to face. In the case of Murugan, the threats to his life and to the lives of his family members had the worst possible effect – it very nearly stopped him from writing. Read more

Source: The Wire


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India: Bangalore Literature Festival 2016: exploring sexuality in Indian literature

The Indian prudishness towards sexuality is often blamed on Victorian mores, but economist author Gurucharan Das, presently working on a fictional memoir Kama argued that the prudishness pre-dated Victorian age by many centuries. He was speaking at the Bangalore Literature Festival on Sunday.

“The beginning of Rig Veda starts with desire (kama) of the maker to create. But why did we become prudish? Like Vatsayana who wrote the Kama Sutra, there were many Kama Optimists, but early on there were the renouncers, ascetics, the Kama pessimists. We did have two parallel strands. The Kama Pessimists were threatened by desire that is uncontrollable. There was then a compromise between the two camps and the compromise was that sex was acceptable as long as it was within marriage. Then came Manu, who wrote one of the Dharma Shastras that blamed the woman for Kama, pushing us into this prudishness,” argued Gurucharan Das. He also added the creation of characters like Sita and Savitri were done to rein in the women. “If Dharma is one’s duty to another, Kama is duty to oneself,” he added. Read more

Source: The Hindu


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Censorship and sensibility in Indian literature

Writers in India today are not fully censored, but their freedoms are imperfect and broken, says Nilanjana Roy: FT

Perumal_Murugan_650 (1)We are backstage at one of Delhi’s older auditoriums, in a green room crowded with stiff, governmental furniture. The writer Perumal Murugan, a quiet man with the watchful eyes of a kestrel and a gift for stillness, is here to celebrate his court-ordered resurrection.

Murugan declared his death as a writer in January 2015, going into seclusion and requesting that his publishers remove his books from circulation. There was a rare sense of jubilation at seeing this Tamil novelist and poet with a large and loyal readership return from the brink of exile after the Chennai High Court ruled that he must be free to write. So few of the writers and artists, from the late MF Husain to Wendy Doniger or Salman Rushdie, who have been targeted by extremists from Hindu, Muslim or Christian hardline groups, had recovered their lost freedoms.

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‘A Censor Is Seated Inside Me Now’: Hometown Wrath Tests a Novelist

Perumal_MuruganPerumal Murugan, who was celebrated here on Monday as a major Indian writer, looked a bit miserable in the big city.

The son of an illiterate soda-pop vendor from small-town South India, he had limited his visit to the capital to 48 hours, and this appeared to be 46 hours too long. He prefers to sleep on a rope cot, under the stars, the way they do in the village, and has never owned a pair of shoes that were not sandals. Leaving an interview with the talk show host Barkha Dutt, who is Oprah Winfrey-league famous in India, he turned to the man escorting him and asked, politely, who she was.

Mr. Murugan had come to declare his return as a writer following a long spell of darkness. After undergoing a vicious attack by caste leaders in his home state of Tamil Nadu, his novel “One Part Woman” last month was the subject of a landmark court decision defending the right of artists to critically depict their own communities. Recent interest in Mr. Murugan’s work has exploded, with five novels coming out, translated into English from the original Tamil.

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Perumal Murugan: How Madras High Court gave literature its one part freedom

Perumal Murugan, the acclaimed Tamil author who wrote his literary obituary last year, has been resurrected.

Madras High Court, in a stinging judgment, upheld Murugan’s right to write and publish. An unequivocal observation of how popular societal perceptions cannot become a hindrance in expressing one’s mind is a timely intervention. Continue reading


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Tamil writer Perumal Murugan wins literature award

A critical element in the novel deals with an old custom in which a childless woman could go to a temple festival and, under social sanction, have a child with another man: The Indian Express

Tamil writer Perumal Murugan has won the ILF Samanvay Bhasha Samman for his novel Madhorubhagan. The announcement was made at Samanvay, a literature festival, on Saturday. Madhorubhagan, translated into English as One Part Woman, had created a furore and resulted in Murugan being persecuted and abused to the extent that he had announced on Facebook in January: “Perumal Murugan, the writer is dead. As he is no God, he is not going to resurrect himself. He has no faith in rebirth. As an ordinary teacher, he will live as P Murugan. Leave him alone.”

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Another author in Tamil Nadu attacked for book

Last month, Tamil author Perumal Murugan’s self-proclaimed “death” following protests against his books spurred a debate about freedom of expression. Now another author has been attacked in Chennai by activists who allege that his book has portrayed their community in poor light.

Pulliyur Murugesan’s book, a collection of short stories, has upset members of the Kongu Vellalar community, who have demanded a ban on it. Continue reading